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OPINION | Why One Cowardly Act in Bengal Cannot Destroy ‘Symbol of Renaissance’ Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar

Attack on Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar’s bust inside an educational institution was, in effect, an attack on the institution of education as a whole.

Jayanta Mukherjee |

Updated:May 15, 2019, 4:39 PM IST
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OPINION | Why One Cowardly Act in Bengal Cannot Destroy ‘Symbol of Renaissance’ Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

On May 14, 2019, a group of very accomplished leaders descended on the city of Kolkata. Their mission was to show their might and prove a point to all — they are THE PEOPLE who are capable of leading our country to a new renaissance.

It is, therefore, ironic, that they chose to demolish the bust of a diminutive giant of Bengal Renaissance – Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.

That gentleman, now reduced to a ‘setu’ (bridge) or a mela (fair), was what Bengal Renaissance stood for.

He was a philosopher, academician, writer, printer and social reformer all embodied into one. He was the gentleman who forced the British rulers to introduce the Widow Remarriage Act.

The language all Bengalis speak in or write may be attributed to Vidyasagar, who reconstructed the language, simplified Bengali typography into alphabets, devoid of Sanskrit phonemes.

A baby’s first steps into the world of Bengali language is inevitably through Barno Parichay, written by Vidyasagar.

Yes, that also holds good for the clan who descended on the scene on Tuesday. One wonders, what was crossing their mind when they were into their dastardly act?

The day will go down as a cornerstone in our history for a reason we need to forget very fast.

Attack on Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar’s bust inside an educational institution was, in effect, an attack on the institution of education as a whole.

Vidyasagar, an incarnate of what education stands for, was humiliated. Or, to put the matter in correct perspective, people who dared to touch his bust are too inconsequential to even fathom his greatness, they have exhibited their ugly face showing scant respect for an institution called Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.

In their misguided exuberance, and, inebriated by their falsified notion of achievement, they have actually hit their own roots.

Their very cowardly act has turned words like terrorism, vandalism, coercion into “sweet nothings”.

The person, who studied under street lights himself, grew into a thought leader, a visionary and who devoted his entire life in enlightening the lives of others, can only be revered. Little did he imagine, the society he envisaged, he lived his life for, shall pay back in these coins.

In a single rash stroke of vitriolic behaviour, his vision was proven wrong. Or, was it? Can Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar be so wrong? No, I feel otherwise.

If ever there is something called “single version of truth”, the same exists for personalities like him.

As an eternal optimist, I firmly believe, his values, so well engrained in us, shall rise one day as the phoenix. Not wearing any party colour, mouthing slogans or pronouncing myopic party manifestos. We, the common people, wearing badges of courage shall take the road, putting it across to power mongers once and for all.

Tuesday’s incident is not just an act of irresponsibility. It is a clear indication of an onset of an intellectual tsunami, a calamity, more deep-rooted and indelible with far reaching effects than what meets the eye.

People who put their hands on the bust, did not realise they are not bringing down a mere slab of marble, they are hitting at the very root of values we stand for.

Breaking down the bust was more symbolic than anything else. The act was a mean to reach a destination, rather than the destination itself.

The 'cow belt' cavaliers will simply have to demolish, destroy amd eradicate monoliths like Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Shri Chaitanya, Lalan Fakir and Nazrul Islam.

These men are spoilsports, they are omnipresent rocks of Gibraltar in the inquisitive minds of Bengalis who are questioning every act of self-acclaimed bravery and self-proclaimed patriotism.

These wise men are counter narratives to the theory of Dharma in the form as propagated now. The act was a symbol of dare, albeit self-destructive to exhibit muscle power they possess to force an entire community to submission.

The incident, irrespective of its political ramifications, has failed to take me unawares. This was on the anvil. What has happened cannot be undone, a lone point of interest is to watch the reaction of society. Are we in a state of stupor, or still have good senses to express our minds?

(Jayanta Mukherjee hails from Calcutta. He has spent more than 20 years studying the life and works of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.)

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